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Foxe's Book of Martyrs -- 473. THOMAS PARKINSON



N the last year of Queen Mary, anno 1558, Thomas Parkinson, of the diocese of Coventry and Lichfield, being of the sect of Anchorite, was produced before Dr. Draycot, upon the suspicion to have a wife: he was examined as followeth. Being asked what age he is now of, he saith, that he shall be, at Whitsuntide next, seventy years old, and was born and christened in a town called Bedale in Yorkshire; and was son to one Thomas Parkinson, bailiff of Thirsk in the same county of York; and when he was twelve years old, he was set to the tailor's craft, to one Thomas Dent, of Thirsk, and served him for seven or eight years, as his apprentice: and, after that, before he was twenty years old, he took to wife one Agnes, the daughter of Hugh Hallywell, dwelling in the franchise of Ripon, being a maid of twenty-four years; and was married to her in Thirsk, by one Sir William Day, then curate there; and, within two years after their marriage together, his wife was delivered of a man-child, which, although while it was in her body, did stir and live, (as she and other perceived,) yet, after the birth, it was dead, so as it could not be christened; insomuch as the midwife, and other women with her, buried the said child, as they said, in the fields -- where, he (this examinate) cannot tell. And, within three weeks after, it chanced that a raven had gotten up the said child out of the ground, and torn the clothes from about the same child, and had begun to break into the said child, to feed upon it; and had brought it into a tree, near unto the churchyard of Thirsk, upon a Saturday, a little before even-song time. And, as the people and the priest before named saw the same child, they made means to drive away the raven, and to get the child from him; so that they, reasoning among themselves whose child it should be, did judge that it was this examinate's child that was dead-born, and buried in the fields. "And the said William Day came home to this examinate and asked him for his child, and he showed him that the women had buried it in the fields, which the priest also examined of the women, and found it to be true; and then he showed this examinate of the bringing of the child by the raven. Whereupon this examinate and his wife were there-withal stricken with repentance to God-ward, and each of them vowed themselves from thenceforth to live chaste and solitary, insomuch as, this examinate, when be was but twenty-two or twenty-three years old, professed the order of Saint Francis at Richmond, five miles from Madlam, and was a hermit or penitentiary at Thirsk, and kept the chapel of Saint Giles at the end of the town of Thirsk. And his wife also was sister of Saint Francis's order, and had a bead-woman's room at Northallerton, by the help of Sir James Strangeways, knight; and after he had kept the order of Saint Francis two or three years, he determined to live a more hard and strait life, and to be an Anchorite, and to seclude himself from the company of the world. And, thereupon, he was first closed up in a little house in the church-porch at Thirsk, where he lived, by the help of good people, two years, before he was professed; and when it was perceived that he liked that kind of life and could endure the same, there was a chapel and a place provided for him in the Mount of Grace, above the Charter-house, by Queen Katharine, and he was professed in that house by one Dr. Makerel, then suffragan to Cardinal Wolsey, and the suffragan had of this examinate's friends, for his profession, five pounds; and there this examinate remained twelve years and more in that house, and his wife would sometimes take one of his sisters, and come over and see how this examinate did; but she died six or seven years before this examinate came out of his house, and, after this, came Doctor Lee, and he pulled this examinate out of his house, and the monks also out of the charter-house, so as this examinate was driven to go abroad to get his living of good people; and when he could get any work to get a penny, to take it: howbeit he kept his habit still. Then he went to London, and there was amongst his friends, that had seen him at Mount Grace, and thence he went to Lincolnshire, thinking to have the Anchorite's house at Stamford, but it would not be as then. He was counselled by Sir John Harrington, then sheriff, to change his habit from grey, which he then wore, to black; and so he wandered from place to place in a black habit like a priest. And at length, about nine years past, he came into Shropshire, to Bridgenorth, and there, by chance, fell in acquaintance with one Elizabeth, which was wife to one William Romney, a tinker, that died there. And, forasmuch as he had in these days both punishment and trouble, for declaring himself a professed man to the order of an Anchorite, and was plainly showed that it was against God's commandment that any man should make any such vow, he therefore, in that point, being partly persuaded, and crediting the same, was the rather moved to desire the said Elizabeth Romney to be his wife; and she thereunto agreeing, they were married together about six years past in the chapel, within the castle of Bridgenorth, by one Sir William Malpas, that is now dead. And so they dwelled together in the lower town of Bridgenorth, this examinate using the tailor's craft, and going abroad into the country to get his living and his wife's, and came not home some time, for a month together. Being asked what moved him to marry, he said that he was foul troubled with vermin, and had no help of washing and tending, as was requisite, nor had any house to be in; and so made his moan to this woman; and then she being troubled, as she said, with certain unruly children of hers, and could not be quiet for them, was content to go with this examinate, and to be his wife. Being asked if he knew her not carnally, as men do their wives, he utterly denieth the same; and sayeth that it was not meant of any of them. Being asked how he chanced to come to this town, he saith that he was moved in conscience to the observance of his former profession, now, since the queen's reign; and the hiring of this house here at Stow, where an Anchorite had been before, made means to my Lady Gifford of his intent, not declaring any thing that he was married; and the said Lady Gifford wrote to Sir T. Fitzherbert, to move the lord bishop in his favour, and so the said Sir Thomas did, and gat my Lord's favour in that behalf. Being asked, if my Lord did, of new, profess him into the religion, he saith, nay; but did put him into the house, and restored him to his former religion and profession. Being asked where his wife was, when he came hither to be closed up, he said, she was at Bridgenorth, and knew nothing of his mind that he purposed to return to his religion; howbeit he showed her that he would go to Lichfield; -and then about Whitsuntide last she came hither to hearken for this examinate. And he said, that it was communed between him and her, that she should go to Worcester and be an Anchoress there, but that she fell sick and was not able to go. Again, being asked when she was last with him, he said that she was with him upon Palm Sunday last, and had nothing to do or say to him, but asked him how he did. They asked moreover what moved her to come to town that day: to whom he said, that she came for her clothes that were in the town there. Furthermore, they asked him whether he showed Sir Thomas Fitzherbert that he was married. He said, nay, but he showed him that he had a sister, who was a poor woman, and was desirous that she should attend him; which was the said Elizabeth that he married at Bridgenorth." For this cause the papists, suspecting the poor hermit to have a wife, (as he had indeed,) therefore, after other molestations, enjoined him penance:-- to go before the cross barefoot, and bare-legged, in the cathedral church of Lichfield, with a taper, and I cannot tell what, in his hand, &c.; and, at Easter, cast him into a close cabin, there to remain, till he heard more of the bishop's pleasure.


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